Ayurveda Definition

Ayurveda is the science of life. The term "Ayur" means life and "Veda" means science or knowledge. Ayurveda is not merely a system of medicine but a way of life, a science that offers man a means to live his life to the full. According to Indian philosophy, human life has four purposes, Dharma (perform one's duty), Artha (to amass enough wealth), Kama (to fulfil one's wishes) and Moksha (to attain salvation). To accomplish these four goals one needs perfect health and Ayurveda suggests the ways and means to attain and maintain ideal health and the quality of life.

Two Broad Divisions of Ayurveda

1. Swasthavritha aims at maintaining health by practising a proper life style designed for the changing seasons and the health status as well as the constitution of the individual. Dinacharya (daily routine) and Rithucharya (seasonal routine) form the basis of Ayurvedic preventive health care. Ayurvedic texts provide comprehensive instructions about the lifestyle to be followed from the birth to death of a human being.

2. Athuravritha is the part dealing with diseases and their management. Various diseases, their aetiology, prodromal symptoms, signs and symptoms, treatment and prognosis are all described in detail.

Branches of Ayurveda

The concept of specialization was there in Ayurveda from the early ages onwards.
Ayurveda is divided into eight specialities :

  • Kayachikitsa (Internal medicine)
  • Balachikitsa (Paediatrics)
  • Grihachikitsa (Psychiatry)
  • Urdhwangachikitsa (Otorhinolaryngology and ophthalmology)
  • Salyachikitsa (Surgery)
  • Vishachikitsa (Toxicology)
  • Rasayanachikitsa (Rejuvenate therapy)
  • Vajeekaranachikitsa (Virile therapy)

History and Evolution

The practise of medicine dates back to the primitive man searching for roots and plants that can cure his ailments. Like all ancient healthcare practises, the science of Ayurveda also evolved with the human race. Ayurveda as we perceive now is a compilation of the accumulated knowledge and experiences of generations, refined through extensive discussions which was later documented in a well organised format by established schools of the age. One distinct advantage of Ayurveda is its sound theoretical framework based on Indian philosophy of life which distinguishes it from folk medicine.

The Concept of Divine Origin Authentic Text Books of Ayurveda

The most authentic books in Ayurveda are Charakasamhitha, Susruthasamhitha, Astangasamgraham and Astangahrudayam. Other significant texts include Kasyapasamhita, Madhavanidanam, Chakradatham, Sargadharasamhita, Bhaishayaratnavali, Bhavaprakasam, Rasaratnasamuchayam and Rasaratnakaram. Through the Centuries the chaotic geopolitical developments and frequent wars and conquests have resulted in the destruction of many of these treasured traditions of natural medicine. But Ayurveda managed to withstand the turmoil and actually benefited from its exposure to other systems of medicine. Social developments like the rise and fall of Buddhism also left its impact on the science. The practise of surgery became extinct as the Buddhist principle of Ahimsa prohibited all procedures which involved blood shedding. Even during the British rule in India, the patriotic zeal of the people, their leaders and benevolence of the rulers of Princely States initiated the revival of Ayurvedic system of medicine.

Basic Principles of Ayurveda

The philosophical base of Ayurveda is based on two central doctrines-

Panchabhuthas (Five Elements) and Tridoshas

Ancient Indian philosophy postulates that the whole universe is made out of Panchabhuthas (Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Space), so is the human body which is a reflection of the outside world. This concept explains the homology between the human body and its environment.

The physiology of the human body is explained by the Tridosha concept.

Earth + Water => Kapha

Fire                   => Pitha

Air + Space      => Vatha

The body tries to maintain a dynamic equilibrium of the three forces which are susceptible to changes in the external and internal environment. Doshas are described with the functions that they perform in the human body.

Dathus (Tissues)

Dathus (tissues) explain the body in the Anatomical way. The seven Dathus are as follows:


-- the absorbed nutrients from the food
-- blood
-- flesh
-- fat
-- bones
-- bone marrow
-- sperm or the ovum


Ayurveda postulates that the food that is consumed, through the action of Agni (the metabolic fire) gets converted into the Dhatus and thereby nourishes the body. Of these Dhatus, Vatha is related to Asthi, Pitha to Raktha and Kapha to the other five.

Malas (Waste Products)

There are three Malas (Metabolic Wastes)

Pureesham            (stools)

Moothram            (urine)

Swedam               (Sweat)


Health is a state of equilibrium of all these entities in the human body and any pronounced deviation from this state of balance is manifested in the form of diseases. Lifestyle, dietary habits and environmental factors can influence this equilibrium.

The features of Vatha, Pitha and Kapha Prakruthis are described below.
Characteristics of Vatha, Pitha and Kapha Prakruthis

Physical/ mental Features





Lean and tall

Moderately built

Broad hips and shoulders






Big calf muscles, skinny hands and feet

Palms and soles are coloured like copper

Well formed and solid joints






Fast and not rhythmic

Moderate, jumping

Slow and steady


Dry, rough, dark, lustreless, cold and wrinkled

Soft, fair, pigmented, excessive sweating and body odour

Oily, smooth, shiny


Dry cracked and curly. Dark brown to black in colour

Brown and scanty. Prone to grey hairs and baldness

Oily, dense and straight. Dark in colour


Large, protruding and not in order

Medium size, yellowish

White and large


Dry, lustreless, round and not lively. The eyelids partially open while sleeping

Small, brown and sensitive. Few eyelashes

White, clear and moist. Thick eyelashes

Voice/ speech

Fast, interrupted, often irrelevant

Precise, can be aggressive or abusive

Low pitched but loud, speaks less and slow

Physical activity

Restless, gets tired quickly. joints make cracking noise while walking

Hard working, orderly and meticulous

Slow but steady, good stamina

Appetite/ digestion


Strong thirst and hunger

Moderate to low

Bowel movements

Tends to be constipated

Regular to frequent


Taste / food preference

Sweet, salty or sour. Oily, hot and heavy food

Sweet, bitter and astringent. Heavy and cold food

Bitter, pungent and astringent. Dry, light and hot food

Emotional state

Fearful, anxious, insecure, jealous, unpredictable, shifting loyalties unsteady thoughts and interest

Brave and proud, intelligent, magnanimous, aggressive, irritable, angry and quarrelsome

Calm, logical, agreeable, friendly, stubborn, charitable, forgiving and grateful






Likes music, humour, gambling and hunting

Likes eating and drinking, adventurous and desirous of grandeur

Harbours enmity for long, humble, and perseverant


Short, disturbed


Deep and long


Of roaming in mountains, or moving in the sky

Of fire and lights, bright flowers

Of water bodies, lotuses, birds and clouds

Sexual urge




Life span





 Tips for Balancing Vata

·         Eat three warm, nourishing meals each day.

·         Favor foods that are warm, heavy, oily, sweet, sour and salty.

·         Minimize foods that are spicy, bitter or astringent.

·         Minimize foods that are cold, dry and light.

·         Pay attention to fluids: avoid cold or iced drinks, sip warm water at regular intervals, avoid alcoholic beverages, coffee and black tea.

·         Ayurveda discusses three doshas or mind/body operators to keep ion balance for optimum health. Vata is the lead dosha and governs all movement in the body.

·         Experience the benefits of a warm sesame oil massage before your morning shower or bath.

·         Keep warm: avoid cold, windy or chilly environments; take long warm baths and showers.

·         Try to keep your environment humid.

·         Favor calm, quiet environments. Avoid mental strain, overstimulation, loud music, and long hours of TV in the evening.

·         Develop regular habits such as eating and going to sleep at the same times each day.

·         Enjoy light, humorous entertainment.

·         Make your surroundings light and bright.

·         Regular daily elimination is important.

Tips for Balancing Pitta

·         Favor foods that are bitter, sweet, astringent, cool, heavy and liquid.

·         Reduce foods that are excessively spicy, salty, sour, hot, or deep-fried.

·         Try to avoid skipping meals.

·         The key to remember when balancing Pitta is moderation.

·         Avoid hot baths and overexposure to the sun.

·         Pay attention to leisure and rest: do not overwork.

·         Keep inside temperatures on the cool side.

·         Avoid or minimize stressful deadline-oriented activities.

·         Seek out pleasing natural environments (sunsets, lakes) and the tonic of laughter.

·         Late evening strolls, when the air is relatively cool, and swimming can help soothe a Pitta-aggravated mind and emotions.

·         Decrease stimulants: avoid alcohol, coffee and tea.

·         Avoid watching violent, shocking or controversial entertainment.

·         Cool milk, blended with a couple of dates, before bedtime can help balance Pitta.

·         Maintain regular mealtimes; try and eat lunch close to noon.

·         Use cooling oil for massage, such as coconut.

Tips for Balancing Kapha

·         Favor foods that are light, dry, warm, pungent, astringent and bitter.

·         Reduce foods that are sweet, sour, salty, heavy, cold and oily.

·         Do not overeat but do not skip meals either.

·         Kapha types are steady and slow, so the key to balance is activity and variety.

·         Exercise regularly preferably every day.

·         Avoid excessive rest and oversleeping.

·         Enjoy the benefits of a dry massage with a loofah sponge or raw silk gloves to stimulate the circulation.

·         Enjoy variety in life, and seek the stimulation of new sights, sounds, and people.

·         Stimulate the digestion by eating a little fresh ginger before meals.

·         Stay warm in cold, damp weather.

·         Early to bed and early to rise can help balance rest and activity.

·         Raw honey is the one sweetener that is beneficial for Kaphas, but in moderation not more than two tablespoon per day.

Tips for Quality Digestion

·         Savor your meals don’t work, drive, read or watch televisions while you’re eating.

·         Eat in a settled atmosphere. A calm environment and focusing on the food aid the body in absorbing nutrients.

·         Eat your main meal at midday, and eat lighter at night. Your digestive fire is strongest at midday.

·         Always sit down to eat eating on the go can hamper digestion.

·         Avoid ice-cold drinks or foods. They decrease the digestive fire.

·         Eat at approximately the same times each day.

·         Don’t eat too quickly, take the time to enjoy each mouthful of food.

·         Eat to about three-quarters of your capacity.

·         Take a few minutes to sit quietly after eating.

·         Don’t drink a lot of fluids with a meal. It’s fine to sip water or juice.

·         Favor fresh foods and avoid left-overs which can disrupt digestion.

·         Avoid taking a meal until the previous meal has been digested. Allow approximately three to six hours between meals.

·         A bit of fresh ginger before a full meal will help stimulate the digestive fire.

·         Milk should not be taken with full meals, especially with salty or sour tastes.

·         Avoid yogurt, cheese, cultured buttermilk and cottage cheese at night.

·         Eat only when you are hungry when the stomach is empty.

·         Do not eat when you are stressed digestion and assimilation are negatively impacted by stress.

·         Maintain regular meal times.

·         A happy, positive frame of mind at meal times will help you get the maximum benefit from your food.

·         Chewing fennel seeds after a meal helps digestion and freshens the breath.

·         Do not interrupt your meals for phone-calls or other work-related activities.

Tips for better Sleep

·         Place thin packets of aromatic, relaxing herb / flower potpourri in your pillows.

·         Do not bring work-related material into the bedroom.

·         Wear comfortable clothing to bed cotton is recommended.

·         The bedroom should ideally be dark or very dimly lit.

·         Keep your bedroom clean and orderly to limit disorderly thought.

·         Calming or settling activities as bedtime draws near help prepare the mind and body for rest.

·         Drink a cup of warm milk before bed.

·         Use calming aroma therapy oils to help you feel more settled.

·         Go to bed before 10 p.m. during the drowsy Kapha time of night.

·         Listen to soothing music/melodies before bed.

·         Poppy Seed Chutney is a natural sleep aid.

·         Avoid arguments or intense entertainment right before bed.

·         Have your last meal about three hours before you go to bed.

·         Eat light at dinner and minimize hot spicy foods.

·         Wash your face, hands and feet just before bed.

·         A warm 20-minute bath an hour before bed can help you relax. Infuse bath water with relaxing aroma oils for added benefit.

Tips for Stress Management

·         Practicing Transcendental Meditation is an effective way to manage stress.

·         Walnuts, almonds, coconut, and sweet juicy, seasonal fruit such as pears, apples (cooked if possible), milk, lassi, Ghee, and fresh cheeses such as panir or ricotta are natural stress-busters.

·         Practice pranayam-breathing exercises to help balance the mind, body and emotions.

·         Mental Stress:

·         Manage mental activity try not to overuse or misuse the mind.

·         Favor Vata-balancing foods, such as sweet, sour, and salty tastes and warm, unctuous and heavy foods.

·         Favor warm milk, Ghee and other light dairy products.

·         Diffusing a relaxing aroma oil can help calm you before bed.

·         Perform a full-body warm oil massage everyday.

Physical Stress

·         Follow a Vata-Kapha pacifying diet.

·         Perform the full-body warm oil self-massage everyday.

·         Exercise regularly in moderation.

Tips for Immunity

·         Avoid extreme temperatures, hot or cold.

·         Eat a balanced, nutritious diet with lots of fresh vegetables and fruits.

·         Cook with moderate amounts of spices like turmeric, ginger, black pepper, cumin and coriander.

·         Avoid ice-cold foods and beverages.

·         Eat three regular meals everyday.

Enhanced Brain Power

·         Eat foods as close to their natural state as possible processed, canned and refined foods are low on chetana natural intelligence.

·         Include healthy proteins in your diet legumes, lentils, beans and grains.

·         Include several helpings of fresh fruit and vegetables in your diet.

·         Don’t cut fat entirely out of your diet, fat performs essential functions in the body.

·         The brain is especially susceptible to damage by free radicals, so harness the power of antioxidants.

·         Try diffusing the essential oil of rosemary, peppermint and lemon to help enhance mental clarity and alertness.

·         The essential oils of basil helps dispel mental fatigue and aids focus.

·         Stress impacts mental performance practice relaxation techniques to manage stress levels.

·         An adequate among of good quality sleep is essential for peak mental performance.

·         Keep your brain constantly challenged to keep it working well.

·         The daily warm oil self-massage helps enhance mental alertness.

·         Cracked black pepper in your diet can help the free flow of oxygen to the brain and help you stay focused yet calm.

·         Balance periods of intense mental activity with short periods of rest.

Tips for Detoxification

·         Get extra rest during detoxification.

·         Go to bed before 10 p.m. to aid the body in purification.

·         Eat wholesome, nutritious, easily digestible foods such as vegetable soups and well-cooked mung dahl.

·         Increase the amount of fiber and bioflavonoids  in your diet eat plenty of cooked, leafy green vegetables and fruits.

Tips for Massage

·         Use more massage oil on the soles of your feet and the palms of your hands to enhance circulation to the peripheries.

·         Full-body warm oil daily self-massage helps balance the body, mind and emotions.

·         A brisk daily dry massage with a raw silk glove can help break down cellulite deposits over time by enhancing circulation.

·         Enrich your massage oil with extracts of herbs for added benefit.

·         Sweet juicy fruits are excellent for cleansing and repairing the body.

·         Drink plenty of plain warm water to help flush toxins from the body.

·         Spring is the ideal time for a full-fledged internal cleansing program.

·         Regular, daily bowel movements are important. Psyllium seed husk can aid regularity.

·         Essential-oil-infused massage oils provide the dual benefit of massage therapy and aroma therapy.

·         Wait 5 -10 minutes after you apply the oil and before you shower for better absorption.

·         Massaging the lower arms, hands, lower legs and feet with a light massage oil can help relax you before bed.

·         A warm oil scalp massage, once or twice a week, stimulates the scalp and helps balance the mind.

Balanced Weight Control

·         Reduce cold, heavy, oily, sweet, sour and salty foods.

·         Include all six ayurvedic tastes (sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent) in at least one meal each day, to help balance unnatural cravings.

·         Avoid heavy meals and leftovers which are hard to digest.

·         Exercise daily. Vary the intensity and amount according to your age, weight and overall health.

·         Avoid fasting or other sudden changes in your diet.

·         Savor your meals. Don’t divide your attention by reading, working or watching TV.

·         Avoid cold drinks and food. Cool is okay.

·         Favor light, nutritious foods. Fill up on sweet, juicy fruits and vegetables.

·         Cook with fennel, cumin and turmeric.

·         Don’t fast or skip meals.

·         Add barely and mung bean soup to your diet.

·         At meals, only eat until you are about ¾ full.

Cholesterol Balance

·         Drink warm water throughout the day it helps flush toxins from the body.

·         Exercise regularly, but in moderation.

·         Cook with turmeric, cumin, coriander, fennel and clove.

·         Include psyllium husk or high-fiber bran in your diet

Tips for Smoother Cycle

·         Drink plenty of warm water through the day.

·         Avoid stimulants such as caffeine, nicotine and alcohol.

·         Eat 1-2 slices of fresh ginger before meals to balance blood flow and aid digestion.

·         Avoid heavy foods such as red meats, deep-fried foods or leftovers.

·         A low salt diet helps ease water retention and bloating.

·         Cook with spices such as ginger, turmeric and cumin. Sauté the spices in a little Ghee and add to cooked foods.


·         The daily warm oil massage is calming and balancing for the emotions and the functions related to menopause.

·         Eat light, easy-to-digest, fresh foods.

·         Avoid cold foods and iced beverages.

·         Eat only a moderate amount of sugar.

·         Coconut, raisins, figs, papaya and sweet juicy fruits help with digestion and elimination.

·         Try to avoid stressful situations and practice Transcendental Meditation to help manage stress.

·         Get extra rest, especially if you experience menstrual discomfort.

·         A relaxing, leisurely 15-30 minute walk can help you stretch without straining.

·         Warm, liquid foods with a smooth texture, such as soups and vegetable purees are the ideal diet.

·         Go to bed by 10 p.m. so that the body is at rest during the natural purification period between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m.

·         Eat your largest meal at mid-day when the digestive fire is strongest.

Ayurvedic Hair Care

·         Cook with “hair-friendly” spices such as cumin, fenugreek, turmeric and black pepper.

·         Stay away from harsh chemical-based topical hair products; they can cause long-term damage to the health and luster of your hair.

·         Never attack wet tangled hair with a brush, use a wide-toothed comb instead to gently untangle hair.

·         A warm oil massage twice a week will help stimulate the scalp; leave oil on for at least an hour or two, then shampoo it out.

·         Use healthy fats to cook with Ghee and olive oil, for example.

·         Try and dry your hair naturally as far as possible, then brush into place; excessive blow-drying can cause hair to split and become brittle.

·         Botanical-based topical products shampoos, conditioners, and hair-oils can help nourish your hair as well as clean and condition it.

·         Add dairy products such as milk fresh yogurt and fresh cheese to your diet.

·         Avoid processed, refined or canned foods and foods with artificial preservatives or colors Ayurveda considers such foods stripped of their “ intelligence” and, therefore, not useful.

·         Manage day-to-day stress with relaxation techniques; prolonged stress is injurious to hair health and color.

·         Include plenty of green leafy vegetables and sweet juicy fruits in your diet.

·         Fresh coconut is excellent for hair sprinkle fresh grated coconut over salads, fruit or cooked rice.

Tips for Exercise

·         The key is to stay within your comfort zone stop or slow down when you start breathing hard, breathing through your mouth, or you feel you are straining.

·         Balance and mind-body coordination are key to experiencing the zone of peak performance.

·         Only exercise to 50% of your body’s capacity.

·         It is best not to exercise on a completely empty stomach some juice, milk or light fruit will help.

·         Ayurveda recommends yogasanas yoga postures and pranayam breathing exercises.

·         A brisk walk is beneficial for everyone. It calms nervous Vata energy, relaxes Pitta and stimulates Kapha.

·         Give your full attention to the process of exercising. Do not divide your attention by watching TV or listening to music while you are working out.

·         If you are a Vata type, light and thin, you need less exercise than Pitta and Kapha types. Low impact sports are best: dance aerobics, gymnastics, yoga and walking.

·         If you are a Pitta type with a medium build, a moderate amount of exercise is good. Sports that help you stay cool are best: swimming, surfing, skiing and ice-skating.

·         If you are a Kapha type with a large build you need regular, vigorous exercise. Sports that require stamina and physical endurance are best: aerobics, cycling, running, weight-lifting and football

Evolution of Ayurvedic Pharmacy :
Man was using medicines to cure his ailments from pre-historic times onwards. Before the invention of fire, he was either eating the herbs as such or was using pastes or juices. Once man mastered fire, decoctions and other dosage forms slowly evolved. The basic purpose was to convert the medicinal content in the herbs to forms that are easy to consume and absorb. Preserving the drugs for seasons where they were not available also was a major concern for the ancient man.
Sarngadharasamhita  written in the 13th century is considered as one of the most authentic text books in Ayurveda pharmacy. Other than the mechanisation and sophistication that happened with the use of modern technology, the basic practises of Ayurvedic pharmacy remains almost the same. New dosage forms like KashayamTablets (Decoctions in Tablet form), extracts and capsules have been added to the repertoire recently.

Dosage forms of Classical Ayurveda
There are seven commonly used dosage forms in classical Ayurveda.

Asava & Arishta

(Aqueous extract)
(Fermented liquid)
(Concentrated fluid)
(Tablet & Pill)
(Incinerated powder)
(Oil & Ghee)

Kashayam  Kalpana
There are 5 dosage forms mentioned under this Kalpana.


Freshly expressed juice of the herb
Ground paste of herbs
Aqueous extract of herbs
Cold infusion
Hot infusion

Asavas & Arishtas
They are fermented liquids prepared by keeping drugs in aqueous extracts or juices mixed with jaggery or sugar for a specific period of time. Fermentation results in the formation of alcohol which serves as a medium of extraction as well as a preservative.

This is a suspension of the distillate in water. Herbs are soaked in water for specified periods and are distilled using a distillation apparatus to produce Arka.

They are semisolid preparations made by concentrating the herbal extracts by adding jaggery or sugar, powdered medicines and ghee or honey. Lehyam(marmalade like preparation), Netranjanam (for external application in the eyes) andVatakam (drier semisolids) are some of the commonly used Rasakriyas.
Gutikas are tablets or pills made out of finely powdered medicines that are later on rolled or punched into the desired form. Other than the powdered herbs, liquids (decoctions or juices), jaggery or Guggulu is used as a binder in making Gulikas.

Bhasma is powder prepared by incinerating the medicines in special furnaces.Bhasmas are the preferred dosage form in treatment methods using metals and minerals. 
Snehas are preparations in an oil or ghee base. Ghees and oils can be used for internal as well as external applications and are essential for Panchakarma. Medicines are added as decoctions, juices, pastes or powders and boiled with ghee or oil so that the active medicinal ingredients are transferred into the medium and filtered off at the prescribed time. For preparing Ghees, the ghee made out of cow’s milk is the preferred medium. Sometimes ghee from goat’s milk is also used. For preparing Oils, sesame oil, coconut oil or castor oil are used as the medium depending on the formulation.

Other  Dosage  Forms
Mamsarasam, Yoosham, Mandham, Ksheerapakam, Pramadhya, Panakam, Lavanakalpam, Ksharakalpam, Satwam, Varthi, Lepam, etc. are other dosage forms suggested in Ayurveda.

Modern Dosage Forms :
Kashayam Tablets
One of the major drawbacks associated with Ayurveda was the poor palatability, especially of Kashayams. The concept of Kashayam Tablets introduced by Arya Vaidya Nilayam is a glowing example of modern technology enriching an age old science. Kashayams are further concentrated and dried to remove the water content and the resultant solid medicinal content is punched into tablet form. Methods to ensure the solubility and consistency of the tablets are employed in the manufacturing process. This technique also helps to reduce the use of preservatives to a great extend. The new dosage form was widely appreciated by the scientific community and at present most of the classical Ayurvedic Kashayams are also available in the Tablet form. By employing the latest packing technologies, the shelf life of the preparations have also been greatly improved.

The use of capsules has become very popular in the Ayurvedic medicine manufacturing industry. Hard capsules are used for powders and soft / flexible capsules are used for liquids and semi-solids. Capsules help to mask the unpleasant smell and taste of medicines and are easy to swallow.

Liniments, Ointments and Creams
Ayurvedic liniments and ointments for relieving pain and inflammations are widely available. The wisdom of Ayurveda has been successfully employed in the development of cosmetic products, especially for skin and hair care.
Other  Dosage Forms
Nowadays Ayurvedic medicines are available as syrups, granules or emulsions. Ayurvedic food and nutritional supplements are also becoming increasingly popular.



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